Having liberated Fort Drellev, we decided that it would be a good idea to pacify some of the surrounding area. Farms are dull, but an indispensable source of regular income. We spent a week or two back home. I did a little crafting (a pair of bracers of armour for Rainor, scrolls, and a fresh wand of Grease), and so did His Lordship. We also organised a caravan to take materials back to Fort Drellev. We do intend to annexe their territory into Fredonia soon, and I’m fairly sure the locals understand that.
In any case, we accompanied the caravan to the bridge at the northwest, then headed into unclaimed land. We were looking for a Dire Tiger, and various other jobs for which there are bounties. We also need to find Cloudarc Monastery, but I suspect that such a thing is more likely to be in the mountains to the southeast of Freedonia.
First day, we found some sort of beast lair, or at least a place where a beast had been. I assumed it was our Dire Tiger, and decided that I would scan the area with Locate Creature each night just before bedtime.
In the morning Rainor cast a fascinating divination. He doe nature magic, of course. The divination works with his own tracking ability, and allows him to actually see a creature by looking at its tracks. Rainor described the creature and without a doubt it was a Chimera.
The tracks were old, and we decided to push on.
Next day, we came to something odd. In the near distance was an enormous smell of offal, but before we could really investigate, we were attacked by tribesmen. I watched for a moment, but they were really to threat at all to the boys, so I left them all to their fun and wen to have a closer look to what lay ahead.
Well! I caught a glimpse of a Blue Dragon head. Chimeras fly, you know, so as I was a good distance from the fight – which was mostly over by this time (I have become quite hardened to slaughter, over the past couple of years. Not quite the human disdain for life, but getting there.) – I dropped a Hypnotic Pattern on the area. Hopefully, that would stop it taking wing too quickly and the lads could get a hit in.
The fight with the tribesmen ended, and His Lordship & co approached the spot where I was keeping the Hypnotic Pattern going. After a few moments, they signalled the all-clear. Approaching, I saw our Chimera, which had been savagely ripped in two by something. Something that hadn’t even bothered to eat it.
Bad news. This can signal the presence of something abberant or magical – something that doesn’t eat. But the real worry is that whatever it was had taken down a grown Chimera. Our Dire Tiger was the best candidate – although why it didn’t eat anything is a minor mystery. Perhaps Chimera meat simply tastes bad: I was not inclined to find out.
Back at the fight scene, there was one tribesman left. I had not prepared my usual full complement of spells that morning, so as to be able to to prepare and cast Locate Creature that evening. Instead, I spent a few minutes and prepared Toungues, and cast it on His Grace.
His Grace interrogated the wretch. I gather that there was nothing much by way of information. Some insults.
Tribesman: “Says girlie-man dressed in metal”
Dave is a fine DM 😀 .
Most importantly, a mention of a name which escapes me right at the moment. Not a god, or anything any of us recognised. Apparrently, so-and-so would totally kick our butts, or some such. Also interesting was his mentioning that things around here – the lands, or something – had changed in the past few seasons. I got the impression that something large-scale, magical, but subtle (so far) was happening.
Oh – I almost forgot. A third thing of importance: the weapons these tribesmen were carrying were quite uniform and of excellent quality. I suspect Pitax.
Anyway. Rainor grabbed the tribesman, frogmarched him over to the chimera, and threw him in the offal. Then untied him and let him go! But a moment later I spotted Rainen and understood. Our wolf and ranger would have no difficulty whatever tracking them back to their camp. He ran off, and we returned to discussing this person, or thing, that the tribesman mentioned.
We do have a duchy, you know. His Grace has this whacking great banner with a dragon’s head on it. It’s quite magical. One of its powers is that it can Message any Fredonian military unit, once per hour. So we prepared a message, to the effect of “Require intel on ‘(name)’. Inquire sages, casters tower, temple. Report hourly.” and sent it to the captain of the keep guard. After a couple of hours, we were informed that (name) was some dead barbarian hero, prophesied to return and rampage across the continent, or some such.
We tracked our tribesman, actually slowing down our pace so as not to catch up with him. Rainor and Rainen had no difficulty whatever – zero, zip, none – following, despite the backtracks and dust-baths. We arrived at a valley exhibiting signs of human activity, and spied a tent camp.
A tent camp! The barbarians had taken hostages from Fort Drellev, could some of them be here? We had to know, before mounting an attack.
Well, guess whose job it is to scout out enemy encampments? There was brief debate, but the decision came down to “Someone invisible who can cast Dimension Door.”. Lucky me. Behind the camp was a steep hillside/cliff. We circled around and climbed it from the other side. I used Invisibility and Feather Fall and came down near an interesting entrance into the hillside towards the back of the camp.
I wandered down the passageway a bit. It looked to me like an old hewn passage recently re-opened. There was an abjuration across it further down (Mother’s gift had been invaluable more times than I can count). A alarm spell, or something like it. It looked divine (or at least fabulous). I debated dispelling it and looking further, but that was more risk than I cared to take.
Instead I investigated the tents. The big one was just a common sleeping area. One of them was guarded, so I snuck up behind it and made a little spyhole. Inside were two ladies with rather out-of-place clothing, one having a sobbing fit. It would be the simplest thing in the world to just teleport us all out, and that’s what I decided to do. I cast Reduce Person, stepped around the guard at the door, and wandered inside the tent.
Inside I spoke to the one who was not having a crying jag. But she seemed to think she was hallucinating, or something. After a bit (and an incident with a pillow), I managed to half-convince her that she was not. In any case, I asked her to go over and calm down her friend. I then dropped the Reduce Person and the Invisibility, and teleported us all out. The crying friend was caught by surprise, but I managed to grab her anyway.
Back on the brow of the hill, we all spoke a bit. The sensible one is Cassandra’s sister – Namaste’s other daughter. I was rather chuffed, until someone spoiled things by asking “what about the other three hostages?”
Damn. They were in another tent at the other end of camp, it seemed. The place was in an uproar. There was absolutely no reason to delay, and plenty of reason not to. I cast another Feather Fall (why do I prepare two? Because, that’s why.) and we entered camp. Rainor stayed on the hill to shoot things: he would have no trouble getting down if he needed to with his monk training.
The fight was, well, brief really. In the middle of the afternoon people were dozy and I imagine half the warriors off hunting. The boys had no trouble. His Lordship wanted an Invisiblilty Sphere, but I refused after what happened last time. If the very first thing you are going to do is attack, why waste a spell that will dispel the moment you do? I’m not made of magic, you know.
Klael positioned himself in front of the tent with the hostages. I made a spyhole at the back, and prepared to shoot at anyone who got past Klael. The ladies positively threw themselves at Klael (a paladin – all shiny armour and good looks) and actually interfered with his stroke at one point. But there was no real difficulty: two dangerous fighters on the ground, and a skilled bowman above with a clear shot at everything. I hadn’t done much … but I suppose clearing out one tent so that we didn’t need to split our forces was a help.
So. We have five hostages, and half a barbarian camp who haven’t come back from the day’s hunt, yet. We have an unexplored possibly quite old passage into a hillside, warded by some kind of divine abjuration. We are about a week away from Fort Drellev, the hostage’s home. I’d like to explore the passage, but it would be a pity if the returning barbarian hunting parties killed the ladies while we were busy inside. But if we just leave, who knows what will come out from under the hill to harry us? What shall we do?